35 things you probably didn't know about James Cameron

Contributed by
Jul 4, 2015, 4:19 PM EDT

Is there anyone who doesn't already know that James Cameron's Avatar has taken in more than $2 billion worldwide, making it the biggest-grossing movie ever? You've likely heard the news so many times by now that you're probably thinking, "Tell me something I don't know!"

So how about these 35 fun James Cameron facts?

♦ His first film, a 10-minute short called Xenogenesis, was made with $20,000 raised from local dentists. You can watch it here.

♦ He landed his first major film job—as art director on Battle Beyond the Stars—by coming up with a unique model for the movie, which he described as "a spaceship with t-ts."

♦ He was also fired ... twice ... from that art director gig by Roger Corman, who hired him back both times.

♦ When working on Galaxy of Terror, doing second-unit shooting, Cameron used AC current to make mealworms move on cue over the surface of a dismembered arm. He supposedly caught the attention of producers who, when passing by, saw the fledgling filmmaker shout "Action!" and then "Cut!" at the larvae ... with the larvae seemingly responding.

♦ Despite his way with animals, Cameron also famously went on to get fired from his first actual directing job on Piranha II: The Spawning.

♦ The guy who has created the two highest-grossing film in history was so poor at one time that he had to steal bread and eat scraps off of room-service trays at a pensione he was staying at.

♦ The idea for Terminator came to him during a fever dream, when his subconscious came up with the image of a chrome torso emerging from an explosion, dragging itself across the floor with kitchen knives.

♦ While working in a real morgue on Piranha II, he personally had to stop production and mop up real human blood that got spilled during shooting. Ick!

♦ He wrote a draft of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 for Sylvester Stallone early in his career, but Sly didn't like it and rewrote most of it.

♦ He sold the rights to Terminator to his producer (and later wife) Gale Anne Hurd for $1 with the promise that she would produce the film only if he directed it. He later said the decision was costly in financial terms, but as it ultimately launched his career, he considered the lost millions "the cost of a Hollywood education."

♦ At one point he considered making the liquid metal Terminator from T2 using claymation techniques.

♦ His voice is the one on Sarah Connor's answering machine at the beginning of Terminator.

♦ He provided the "voice" for the death screams of the T-1000 in T2.

♦ He shouted, off-camera, "All ahead, full!" in Titanic.

♦ In True Lies, the line "Yeah, she's got her head in his lap, Yahoo!" is his as well.

♦ His dog Wolfie appeared in The Terminator, and "Wolfie" was the name used in T2 to uncover the ruse of the T-1000.

♦ One of the stunt rats on The Abyss actually stopped breathing during the sequence where it was supposedly submerged in liquid oxygen, so Cameron revived it with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He kept the rat as a pet until its natural death a year later.

♦ Cameron nearly died during the filming of The Abyss, when while shooting an underwater scene he ran out of air and tried to make it to the surface. A safety diver gave Cameron a malfunctioning regulator, which pushed water into Cameron's lungs; the director had to punch the diver to free himself and made it to the surface. There he fired the diver and the assistant director whose job it was to monitor the air levels.

♦ He named his special effects company Lightstorm after the time-travel effect from Terminator. Among their inventions: a palm-sized, 8-pound 35mm film camera used to shoot the "point of view" sequences in Strange Days.

♦ He wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay for Strange Days, directed by ex-wife Kathyn Bigelow. He also did much of the editing, but was not credited because he was not a member of that union. (He did receive an editor credit for Titanic two years later.)

♦ Although Titanic is one of his few non-sci-fi movies, the project started with an otherworldly decoy title: Planet Ice.

♦ When advance screenings were held for Titanic, the film cans were labeled with yet another decoy title: Baby's Day Out 2.

♦ Cameron decided against directing Terminator 3 because he felt that after T2, "The original sense of guerrilla filmmaking was gone."

♦ As Titanic was about to enter theaters, it was widely believed by pundits that the film's budget was simply too enormous ever to turn a profit. Cameron forfeited his $8 million director's fee and percentage of the gross profits to appease the studio.

♦ The scene in Terminator 2 in which an employee and supervisor talk about CyberDyne, which ends with "and we always get the same answer: 'Don't ask,'" was originally conceived for Aliens.

♦ His brother Mike Cameron built two custom remote vehicles to probe the interior of the Titanic for Cameron's 3-D IMAX documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss.

♦ He also cast Mike in The Abyss; Mike played a drowned crewman in the sunken submarine. A crab crawled out of his mouth.

♦ The idea for The Abyss came to Cameron in high school while attending a lecture on deep-sea diving.

♦ He executive-produced a documentary called The Lost Tomb of Jesus and wrote the introduction to The Jesus Family Tomb, a book on the controversial archaeological find.

Avatar is Cameron's only sci-fi film not to have any reference to nuclear weapons.

♦ While playing himself in the HBO series Entourage, Cameron asked the show runners to assure him that Aquaman (the film Cameron was directing in the series) would be portrayed as a box-office smash.

♦ James Cameron is a member of the Mars Society, a not-for-profit advocacy group that hopes to encourage manned missions to the Red Planet. Cameron acquired the rights to fellow Mars Society member Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about terraforming that planet.

♦ Born in Canada, Cameron revoked his application for U.S. citizenship after the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.

♦ He stopped drinking caffeinated beverages after completing T2.

♦ James Cameron has won three Academy awards (of the total of 11 won by Titanic), but only one Razzie. He shares "Worst Screenplay" honors with Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Jarre for Rambo: First Blood, Part II, though the finished script has little in common with Cameron's draft.

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